Posted by: Jo | July 13, 2019

The Weak Made Strong

“He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(1 Corinthians 1: 8)

WeakStrong01We sing a song in our church, that always lifts me up and makes me realise that I can make it through another week, with the help of the Holy Spirit holding me up. The refrain of each verse says;

The weak made strong through the Saviour’s love.

The permission to be weak is one of the most beautiful aspects of being a follower of Christ Jesus. In a world that often despises weakness and actively preaches another message of be strong and achieve your goal and promote stories of people going off into the wilderness by themselves, camping, foraging for food, living off berries, giving all the glory to the person and making all those who could never accomplish this a feeling of being weak and useless.

We have often heard this deriding of weakness in these sayings;

  • He is such a weak person, never standing up for himself
  • She is so weak she just gives in to everybody, she has no backbone

It is so refreshing to read in Scripture, that the Lord does not judge us on how strong we are.

Paul has quite a different slant on what weakness means to him. He revels in his weakness because he knows that when he succeeds, glory will go to the Lord; WeakStrong02

“That is why for Christ’s sake I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Corinthians12: 10)

The Psalmists knew where to find the strength to get them through whatever was happening around them. We too can call out to the Lord when our strength is failing;

“Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.” (Psalm 31: 3)

We often come across in our own lives, of people who are genuinely weak through a physical handicap, or from some terrible trauma, or a mental problem, these are the ones who need to hear the wonderful news, that the Lord does not see them having to be trapped in their weakness , but is willing to make them strong in his love. We too by our actions need to see them as children of God, deeply loved by him and to tell them this.

Sometimes life overwhelms us so powerfully that we feel we cannot even pray and feel weak and helpless. This is when we can remember that we have a powerful advocate, the Holy Spirit who offers to pray for us if we just come and ask him; WeakStrong03

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself, intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8: 26)

Then the Saviour will make us strong through his love. 

 

 

 

Posted by: Jo | June 29, 2019

Good News

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.”

(Isaiah 61: 1)

GoodNews01Watching the television news lately can be very depressing with every story bringing ugly descriptions of “man’s inhumanity to man” (Alan Paton) from wars and abuse, to human trafficking to senseless shooting of school children. The internet is not much better with the hidden challenge of now for all of us, having to decide if this is fake news or real. It can be very disturbing to read of people who have ben fooled by what they think is real and only to find out they have been hoodwinked by evil people extracting money from them. We, the followers of Jesus must be constantly aware of the false news that begins to cause doubt about the truth of scripture and so easily fall onto the trap Eve fell into when Satan whispered these words, cleverly bringing doubt on the veracity of God’s words

 “…He said to the woman, Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (Genesis 3: 1)

Others can lead us astray by saying the same question in a different form, implying we don’t need to really believe what the Bible says.

The prophet Isaiah said in Chapter 25: 7 that the people had been covered in a shroud that was hiding the truth from them and the coming Saviour would destroy that shroud. We need to remember that verse and remember the power we must discern and disregard false news.

GoodNews02The news about Jesus Christ is described over and over in scripture as, good news. The angels told those shepherds long ago and they believed and worshipped that new, born king;

“But the angels said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.” (Luke 2: 10)

Jesus himself begins his ministry telling the people the good news about their God;

“After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God” (Mark 1: 14)

After Jesus had shown himself as the risen Saviour to the apostles, they never stopped preaching the good news wherever they went despite opposition, persecution and gaol. They knew this was the real news everybody needed to hear; GoodNews03

“Day after day in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 5: 42)

Once we know that good news, we need to tell others and not keep it to ourselves. This sometimes shared the best way by living that good news. Our actions often can reflect the message of that good news, so that others will desire the peace and love we display in our lives and ask us what prompts our actions.  So wonderful to have good news to share despite what ever is raging around us.

 

Posted by: Jo | June 8, 2019

Accepting God’s Gift Of Peace

“And the peace of God which transcends all human understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 4: 7)

Peace04Peace, the word itself, carries deep depth for every human being, but when it is joined with God’s name it transcends all human understanding. It outweighs every human concept of humans who struggle to find peace in their own lives, relying on their own capabilities. The world battles against all odds to bring about peace between nations, cultures, religions, mostly failing as history proves, only resulting in an on-going saga of wars.

When I was growing up our church had a lovely practice of just before the prayers for communion began, the congregation was asked to turn to the person beside you and “pass the peace”. This meant shaking their hand and saying, Peace be with you and they would respond likewise. A beautiful message, but sometimes lost its power as it became routine like saying “good morning” and the real meaning became lost.

David remembered the power of the Lord and reminded the people of where their strength would come from.

“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”  (Psalm 29: 11)

A wonderful reminder for us as turmoil overtakes our lives and anxiety leaves us troubled and making decisions becomes clouded with fear, we need to accept that gracious offer of peace and ask the Lord to provide it for us.

Peace05Jesus himself knew the troubled world was going to be hard for those who chose to follow him and left this blessing behind him not only for the disciples, but for us as well.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14: 27)

And again, he reminds us of his great strength and urges us to accept his gracious gift and to remember that he has overcome the world and his peace is way beyond any earthly power;

“But I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 6: 33)

Just like any gift, it needs to be received and opened. Too often we feel that we should be able to deal ourselves when difficulties arise and become like my little two-year-old Peace03grand-daughter, who spurns any help we offer her, but replies, I can do it! By acknowledging God’s beautiful gift, we can rest assured that rusting him will alleviate our fears and allow that incredible peace to encircle us as we walk the paths of life.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3: 5 – 6)

 

Posted by: Jo | June 1, 2019

Simple Gestures

“I led them with cords of human kindness with ties of love, I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.”

(Hosea 11: 4)

Gestures01We often read in the media of random acts of kindness, but rarely know of what affect that has on the person who receives them.

A few weeks ago, I was recipient of not one, but three beautiful simple gestures that changed my day. I was feeling very despondent and sad and felt I had to at least go for a walk in the sunshine to escape the loneliness of my apartment. As I was walking down a walk in my neighbourhood, I came across a lady in a motorised wheelchair sitting in the sunlight. I stopped to pat the tiny dog she had with her and she looked up and with a beautiful smile said, you are looking very beautiful today, I certainly didn’t feel very beautiful, but she was wearing a tee shirt that said, be kind to one another, and that and her smile lifted my spirits . I told her how beautiful her smile was and was rewarded by another one.Gestures03

My step quickened and a moment later saw a friend who I had not seen for ages. Her warm hug brightened me yet again! As I wandered into one of our shops, I was rewarded this time with laughter, as I lined up at the check out another old lady was laughing with the cashier and she turned to include me in their joke, and I laughed with them. A smile, a hug, laughter who would have thought that would change my mood to joy. I thanked God for the kindness of others and walked home filled with joy.

I love the way the Lord told the children of Israel that he would bind them to him with cords of kindness while he lead them (Hosea 11: 4) When we know we are bound to him with cords of kindness, we can spread that kindness to others, as we go about our daily life, as I learnt even the smallest gestures can bring sunshine into someone’s life, as well it is good for us to recognise the kindness of others as I learnt in my walk and don’t just brush it off, savour each simple gesture you experience and the day will grow Gestures02immeasurably brighter.

The lord also speaks through Jeremiah to remind his people what his characteristics are and what we can inherit by being one of his children

“But let him who boasts, boast about this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9: 24)

So when we experience those simple gestures of kindness, let us remember where they originate from and give thanks to the Lord.

Posted by: Jo | May 17, 2019

A Chasing After The Wind

“And I saw all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbour. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

(Ecclesiastes 4: 4)

Contentment01We have been doing a fascinating study in our church on the book of Samuel and with the focus on the life of David. David began as a humble shepherd boy until his famous feat of killing the giant Goliath and eventually becoming the King of Israel. Last Sunday we observed David drifting away from the God he worshipped and committing the sin of adultery and ordering the murder of Uriah. Our pastor pointed out how power can corrupt. David had wealth and power, everything he needed, but still allowed envy for another man’s wife to lead him into sin. Our pastor had this quote about power, power is like drinking saltwater, the more you have the thirstier you become for more, your thirst is never satisfied.

Solomon, who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, was another example of someone who had wealth and power, but he concluded, that most of what we desired as humans became a mere “chasing after the wind”.

So, what does give us satisfaction and give us contentment with our lot in life?

The world constantly tells us of exactly what will make us happy and satisfied with life, ideas ranging from beautiful clothes, luxury homes, to fast sport cars. It also in a subtle way promotes, that to get to the top of one’s profession will bring praise and honour, so strive to out do all other contenders for that special position. Contentment02

Recently one of the questions in our Bible Study was a simple, but also a complex one.

What brings you satisfaction in your life?

We are an older group, so have lived through ups and downs in all their forms. Many answers included a loving family, a safe place to live, loving friends, but the question begs for deeper reasons for contentment and satisfaction.  We have been studying Philippians and finally agreed, that Paul summed up his experiences with a wonderful example of what true satisfaction is and one worth following;

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or living in want.” (Philippians 4: 12)

Then we had to look carefully again at his letter to learn Paul’s secret. His secret is a powerful one. It is having the peace of God surrounding us whatever is going on in our lives. This peace is so amazing we as humans are unable to understand it. It is divine. Content02

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 7)

What a wonderful message for all of us. Whatever is going on in our lives we can call on the Lord Jesus Christ and ask for his peace, and contentment will follow. No longer chasing after the wind, we have a solid rock to hang on to.

 

 

Posted by: Jo | May 9, 2019

All Seeing Eyes

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

(2 Chronicles 16: 7 – 9)

Everything01When my brother and I were young, we were convinced that my mother was exactly like the old saying, she had eyes in the back of her head. She seemed to know what we were up to and even if she wasn’t in the same room as us, we would hear her say, “that game is going to end in tears!” and of course she was right. How did she know what we were playing with each other or how did she know one of us was teasing the other and tears probably were going to result?

Scripture tells us that there is One who can miraculously see all his children and everything we are doing or thinking! At first glance that seems a bit scary that the Father can see everything we are doing, but when we look again, we see immense comfort and hope in those words. Often we have a special appearance we show to the outside world, sometimes thinking if they really knew how insecure I am / or how inadequate I feel next to them/ or the difficult struggle I had as a child that has scarred me for life, or my anxiety attacks that keep me from mixing with others, they wouldn’t bother to associate with me, but when we realise that the Lord knows all of our worries and loves us completely anyway, what a blessing his word is.

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance but, the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16: 7)

Everything02The Lord knows completely what we have experienced and knows all our social fears and all our insecurity, so what a blessing it is when we seek his company in prayer there is no pretending, we can just be our selves and knowing this gives us more confidence in mixing with others we can even remind ourselves who we are by repeating the line in one of my favourite songs, before venturing out in the world.

I am a child of God  

Sometimes we feel we must be invisible or not worth noticing, but the Lord has promised to search for all his children and promises to build them up and give them a firm footing and is watching out for us for our own good.

“My eyes will watch over them for their good. And I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them.” (Jeremiah 24: 6)

So, we can rejoice in those all-seeing eyes watching over us.

Everything03

Posted by: Jo | April 27, 2019

Morning Rituals

“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, his compassions never fail. They are new every morning great is your faithfulness.”

(Lamentations 3: 22 – 23)

As we grow older our morning rituals take on a new and quite different procedure to Morning02that when we were young and were working or had small children or sometimes both! Morning rituals then were chaotic. I was thinking back on my own life and remembering all the changes I lived through. When I was a new young teacher, I had a kindergarten class and one of the little songs they loved to sing (or perhaps shout might be a better description) had these words as the first verse;

I wake in the morning early  

And always the very first thing 

I sit up in bed 

And I sing and I sing and I sing 

When I was sharing this sweet song with one of my sisters, she looked at me in sheer disbelief, and this was her response; You let little children sing that! It is certainly not the way I wake in the morning. My sister was not known as a “morning person

The Psalmists knew that one of the important rituals of the morning was to speak to God;

“In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” (Psalm 5: 3)

Morning01As a young mother and also working, my request was probably a plea to get through the day, but as I grew in the knowledge of who Jesus was, my morning prayer time became the most important part of my morning ritual and I became more and more dependent on that precious time.

As we grow older, we no longer need to jump out of bed to rush to get all those important tasks done and sometimes I feel because of this there is less and less I can do for the Lord. One of my friends gave me some wonderful advice, she told me she said this beautiful verse while she was still lying in bed so her heart would be prepared for whatever lay ahead that day;

“Create in me, a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51: 10)

I often take her advice and feel it does prepare me for the day. Another old friend also told me of a wonderful way she prays that all important morning prayer. She asks God if she can be used in any way to help someone who needs it and asks him to place that person in her life that day.

Morning03Others have told me they write a favourite verse out on paper and leave it on the bedside table, so they read it as soon as they wake up.

Jesus himself calls himself the bright Morning Star and what a beautiful thought to have when one wakes up;

“…I am the Root and the Offspring of David and the bright Morning Star.” (Revelation 22: 16)

Posted by: Jo | April 18, 2019

Amazing Grace

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father. Full of grace and truth.”

(John 1: 14)

AmazingGrace01This week we sang in our church service, probably one of the best-known hymns ever written, Amazing Grace. As I sang the familiar words, once again I was filled with awe at what those words meant, although written hundreds of years ago their impact has never lessened and as we approach Good Friday and think deeply about what those words really mean, our hearts are profoundly touched and just like the author we are filled with gratitude to our Saviour.

The author, John Newton, had every reason to be amazed at the grace shown to him by Jesus. He was a slave trader in a despicable time of history when humans were traded for money. It is understandable that John Newton would be overwhelmed that Jesus would choose someone like him to die for, but when we look at ourselves, we can also be amazed that the Son of God would choose us.

The also amazing thing about grace is that it continues to pour out upon us continually when we acknowledge Jesus as our Saviour.AmazingGrace02

“From the fulness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” (John 1: 16)

Paul was particularly aware of how important Jesus’ on-going grace was to us all and constantly reminded the young churches to remember this beautiful gift would bless them and of course us as well and to allow his grace to permeate their and our lives.

“May the Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and hope…” (2 Thessalonians 2: 16)

When we realise that grace is an everlasting gift, we have that feeling of being encompassed by the Saviour’s love every day of our lives and have that eternal hope that John Newton writes about in his hymn.

Yet, when this flesh and heart shall fail

And mortal life shall cease

I shall possess within the veil

A life of joy and peace.

This Good Friday, I am going to concentrate on that beautiful gift that Jesus gave us and to promise to follow the wonderful AmazingGrace03advice Peter wrote to the followers of Christ.

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (2 Peter 3: 18)

 

Posted by: Jo | April 14, 2019

Honouring One Another

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves”

(Romans 12: 10)

Honour01Perhaps all of us at birth are filled with zeal for self and the importance of being number one. If you have ever watched toddlers first interacting with other small children, how they relate is fascinating to see, as they wrestle toys away from one another and when they can speak, often accompanied by shouting out Mine and Me First. The poor parents constantly trying to teach that all important word, share, or “it is [your/their] turn next”. We do get taught how to lovingly live with one another from a young age.

Unfortunately, as we grow into adults those same toddler woes emerge and colour our lives. I know myself how irritated I become if I feel somebody has pushed ahead of me in the line up to pay for the groceries and I want to shout, me first. The Heavenly Father knew we would need some teaching and Jesus gave us the best example of how to do that;

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15: 12)

Honour02When Paul is writing to the new churches, he adds another dimension to what this means. He tells Jesus’ followers to honour one another. I looked up the dictionary to check the meaning of this word and this description stood out for me;

To have high respect and esteem  

Paul was reminding them to respect their fellow believers and to show this respect to all others who would be witnesses to their behaviour. Esteem is another important word to remember in their lives and of course in our lives a well. Not to look down on others, not to feel superior to others they thought beneath them. To accept the worth of others.

The word honour in Scripture, was often associated with God himself and the children of Israel were told to honor their Almighty God and not just with their lips but with their whole being,

“These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Isaiah 29: 13)

The wonderful outcome of honouring one another is that in so doing we honour God himself. So, when we treat others with respect and esteem, we are honouring God himself;

“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honours God.” (Proverbs 14: 31)Honour03

I certainly feel a lovely feeling when someone says to me, you go ahead. A simple gesture but when we remember that when we make a point of honouring others we are also honouring God, and when we view others as being more important than ourselves it is amazing how we get that beautiful feeling that we are not only honouring God we are pleasing him.

 

Posted by: Jo | April 5, 2019

Rejoicing Daily

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

(Psalm 118: 24)

Rejoice01Last week my family with their two young children came to dinner at my place and once we were seated at the table, my six-year-old grandson could hardly wait to tell me what they were now doing at their dinner table every night. At first, I was a little confused when he said, it was about roses, thorns and buds. When his mother explained I was thrilled at what their parents were instilling in their children. Everybody took a turn and they had to look hard at their day and find a beautiful thing that had happened (a rose) then they were also allowed to share what had been not so good (a thorn) then to end with, to find a way to encourage something good to happen for the next day (the bud).

The Lord allows us to do exactly that when we talk to him. We can converse with him honestly about our day, but not to dwell on the thorns, but to find a beautiful thing to thank him for so we find that rose to rejoice with him and then if we have messed up in some way we can find a bud which we will strive to allow to bloom on the following day.

Paul is a wonderful example of rejoicing in the Lord whatever thorns he has in his life.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice.” (Philippians 4: 4)

Rejoice02When he is writing to the Philippians, he encourages them to rejoice and find roses to thank God for. This even more startling when Paul was writing from prison while in chains.  He doesn’t mention how terrible that must be, but rejoices that amid all his agony his witness for Christ has reached the palace guard and not only that, this witnessing has encouraged other Christians to be bolder in how they share the good news;

“Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” (Philippians 1: 14)

Philippians is a letter filled with joy and Paul wanted to convey this to the believers so that the joy of knowing Christ would also fill their lives and in the opening chapter he tells them that he prays for them with joy;

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.” (Philippians 1: 4)

Rejoice03Again, a wonderful example for us to follow to pray with joy for our families, our friends our church family

When we start the day rejoicing, it has an amazing affect on the rest of the day and at the end of the day we will have plenty of roses to thank God for.

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